In his two-day visit to Tehran, which began on Wednesday, Turkish prime minister will discuss a security pact, including joint operations against Turkey’s Kurdish insurgents, as well as trade issues, particularly a contract to manage Tehran’s new international airport and Iran’s gas exports to Turkey. July 28, 2004 - Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan asked the Islamic government to place Turkish insurgents formerly known as Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) on its list of terrorist organization. Erdogan arrived in Tehran early Wednesday, at the helm of a delegation of 130 Turkish businessmen and government officials.
During Erdogan’s two-day visit, Iran’s halted gas exports to Turkey, and the suspended contract with Turkish-Austrian concern TAV for operation of Tehran’s new international airport will be on the agenda of talks. While Khatami government insists that it will honor the contract, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which sent armed troops to close down the new airport on the day it began operatoins, and the conservative Majles majority oppose it.
Erdogan met with the Islamic government's first VP Mohammad-Reza Aref and Majles speaker Gholamali Haddad-Adel. During those talks, Erdogan expressed hope that trade volume would reach $5 billion in 2004, Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported. The volume of trade between the two neighbors was $2.3 million in 2003, according to IRNA.
Iran’s agreement to consider Turkey’s insurgents Kurdish party as a terrorist organization would be a major breakthrough in ties, as both sides have in the past traded accusations of sheltering dissidents, Agence France Presse commented in a dispatch from Tehran.
“Tomorrow we will a memorandum in a way which will include Kongra-gel/PKK as a terrorist organization,” Eredogan told reporters in Tehran.
Trade relations between Tehran and Ankara have been damaged by a disagreement over the price of natural gas Turkey is importing from Iran under a 1996 deal. Turkey halted imports, complaining of poor quality and asking Iran to reduce the price.
In a meeting on Wednesday with Erdogan, oil minister Bijan Namdar-Zangeneh discussed the gas deal, according to the official news agency IRNA, which did not go into any details.
Iran is Turkey’s second biggest gas provider after Russia, IRNA said. Ankara and Tehran signed a 25-year, $30 billion deal in 1996, under which Iran would supply up to 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. In 2001, the two countries opened a pipeline connecting Ankara to the northern Iranian city of Tabriz. Since then, however, exports have experienced interruptions due to disputes over the pricing and quality of the natural gas.
Iran has resisted Turkish efforts to rework the deal. Ankara has offered several times to allow an international arbiter to settle the export dispute, but Iranian authorities have shunned the idea. Turkish observers expect Erdogan to renew the effort to resolve the issue.
The former Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), now known as Kongra-Gel, has waged a 15-year separatist war in predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey. The group ended a five-year unilateral cease-fire with the government on June.
Iranian security forces this month began a major crackdown on PKK militants hiding in Iran along the border with Turkey, in which at least 10 rebels and two Iranian soldiers were reported killed.